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Berger’s Burg: Good riddance to heavy, unnecessary phone books

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A rich gentleman was briefed by the private detective on what his wife was doing. “At this very moment, she is carrying on in your bedroom.” The furious man dialed his house and the butler answered. “I want you to get my shotgun, then go into the bedroom and blast the two people in bed.” Ten minutes later, he called the house and asked the butler if he did it. “Yes, sir.” “What did you do with the gun?” “I threw it into the pool.” “I don’t have a — is this 555-0437?”

A phone company has asked regulators for permission to stop printing and delivering residential white pages directories in New York. If such a calamity ever happens, what am I going to use as a doorstop, to raise my computer monitor 4 inches or to hold down my scattered to-do messages?

A neighbor had a bandage on his nose. He was asked what happened. “The telephone did it. I called a friend at 3 in the morning. When he got out of bed and answered the phone, I said, ‘Guess who?’” “So how did your nose get broken?” “He guessed who.”

On the one hand, the request makes sense. The company said it could save 5,000 tons of paper every year by halting delivery of the white pages alone. And let’s face it, most of us stopped using the white pages to look up residential phone numbers a long time ago. These days, we either do it online or call directory assistance and have them dial the number for us.

The first bathtub was used in 1850; the telephone was invented in 1875. Back then, those lucky people spent 25 years in their tubs without the telephone ringing once!

Fact is, I do not use the yellow pages either and I do not think I am unique in this regard. But the phone company is not talking about getting rid of business listings because it sells those and I am certain it does not want to cut off such a lucrative revenue stream.

I just got an obscene phone call from my telephone company. It wants me to pay my bill.

Still, you have to wonder how they are going to convince business customers of the value of paying for a yellow pages listing when the company admits the white pages listings are about as useful as 8-track tape players. That, as they say in the business, is going to be a marketing challenge.

The message on a shy man’s answering machine: “Hello. I’m in right now, but you probably don’t want to talk to me anyway.”

About the only revenue the phone company will lose by getting rid of the white pages are the fees it charges people who do not want their numbers listed. That never made sense to me. Why would it cost extra to have your number unlisted and out of the phone book? That makes about as much sense as charging airline passengers extra for luggage they carry on — oh, wait ....

Dialing no-charge 800 numbers is wonderful. I dialed 1-800-285-369-842796-4397-1-829 and wound up with a blister.

But because I am a green sort of guy, I support this proposal to save paper. From almost any perspective, printing and delivering a new, humongous phone book to every customer every year is a colossal waste of resources.

And every time I call an 800 number, I get a busy signal.

I would wince in the TimesLedger Newspapers office every time I watched the phone company delivering the new phone books. They would be placed on a skid that weighed close to a ton. Then poor Roberto, who did all the heavy lifting, would spend a good part of his day lugging them to every person who had a phone — and that person would promptly put the new phone book in a bottom desk drawer and forget about it.

The telephone rang. “Hello?” “Hello? Is this Joe?” “This is Joe.” “You don’t sound like Joe.” “Yes, it’s Joe.” “Okay, Joe, this is Tom. I need $200.” “I’ll tell you when Joe gets in.”

When the desk drawers got too full, we would do an office-wide collection and fill up several of those huge rolling tubs for recycling. And then we would pay a guy to get rid of the astronomical number of brand-new phone books that had never been touched.

Whenever I return home, I can always tell when Gloria just left: The phone is still warm.

But this time, I intend to keep one phone book to place under a shortened desk leg to finally get it to stand up straight. I hope it works so I will not look crooked anymore.

A person’s telephone is just another person’s wrong number.

(Happy 47th wedding anniversary, Gloria!)

Contact Alex Berger at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com.

Updated 6:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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